Duterte suspends logging operations in Zamboanga Peninsula

LOGGING IN MINDANAO. President Duterte is shown a video of a deforested area in a Zamboanga mountain range. Photo from Manny Piu00f1ol Facebook

LOGGING IN MINDANAO. President Duterte is shown a video of a deforested area in a Zamboanga mountain range.

Photo from Manny Piu00f1ol Facebook

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to suspend two logging concessions in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

He gave the order to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu during the 21st Cabinet meeting on Monday, January 8, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"The President also ordered several logging concessions in Zamboanga Peninsula to be suspended," Roque said  in a news  briefing on Tuesday, January 9.

He said Duterte made the decision after he was told of concerns of indigenous peoples displaced by the logging activities. He was also shown a 5-minute video presentation showing flashfloods in a deforested area.

"He also observed that it is widespread logging that is responsible for the flashfloods that Mindanao experienced only this month of December with two typhoons," said Roque, referring to storms Vinta and Urduja.

Following the President’s order, the DENR said on Tuesday that it stopped the operations of two big companies for alleged violation of their Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs).

DENR Region director Felix Mirasol Jr. confirmed that the DENR had suspended the operations of the Dacon Group of Companies (DGC), which is operating in the province through the Sodaco Agricultural Company, Incorporated,  and the Sirawai Plywood and Lumber Corporation  in Sibuco town.

Cimatu said that DENR investigators will conduct “an exhaustive probe…to see if there have been violations in their permits.” 

He said he created a 12-member team composed of local DENR officers from the forestry, mines and environment bureaus to conduct the investigation.

Under their  IFMA terms, SPLC and Sodaco “are allowed to establish industrial tree plantations which they can harvest,  but are not allowed to cut residual trees unless authorized by the Office of the DENR Secretary under very strict conditions such as for site development  and plantation establishment,” the DENR said.

In  a Facebook post on Monday, Agiculture Secretary Manny Piñol said "am angry President Rody Duterte tonight directed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to immediately issue a closure order on the logging operations of the Sodaco Agricultural Corporation in the Zamboanga Peninsula."

Sodaco,  formerly known as the South Davao Development Company, Incorporated, is supposedly owned by the Consunji family. 

Piñol quoted the President as saying, "Roy, ipasara mo 'yan. Hindi naman maghihirap 'yan si Consunji kasi oligarch na 'yan (Roy, close it down. Consunji won't suffer because they he is an oligarch)."

Duterte gave his suspension order verbally after he was shown a video of a deforested part of a mountain in Zamboanga during the meeting.

Piñol visited Sibuco town, which was affected by flashfloods during Typhoon Vinta, on January 4.

The agricultural chief said got a 60,000-hectare concession from the DENR as part of its Integrated Social Forestry program in 2006.

Since then, he alleged, Sodaco had been felling trees "on the pretext of clearing the area for an oil palm plantation." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.